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de mortuis

Well, and Dick Francis has died.

I’ve probably spoken enough about him here in this Tohu Bohu, since I’ve been blogging my reading. I have read more than twenty novels in the last six years, most of them being rereads of books I have read half a dozen time already. They are comfort book, bathtub books.

I do believe, for whatever it’s worth, that most of the work on most of the novels was actually done by his wife. That bothers me a little, but not all that much—he has always seemed a bit like a holdover from another era, somehow, which makes that sort of thing seem more like a way for them to work their marriage through the overtly patriarchal restrictions of a byegone era, rather than nasty and misogynous exploitation. I recognize that I am more lenient about that idea because I like the books. I’m OK with that.

I was thinking, the other day, as I passed by a copy of Mark Helprin’s Winter’s Tale on a library shelf, that it was a shame I didn’t like the book, or one of his others, because it would be a useful conversation point in the discussion of liking books while disliking their authors. Alas, I did not. And now, thinking about Dick Francis and the reasons I could in theory have given for disliking him, it occurs to me that perhaps I don’t have any cases, from my experience, of liking books whilst disliking their authors. Oh, I disagree with authors all the time, and Dick Francis and his Conservative views are a good example of that, but dislike?

Maybe it’s just that I can’t think of any. Or perhaps Robert Silverberg is as good an example as is necessary—I definitely have the sense that the man’s an asshole, but then, I have not a small number of acquaintances who are assholes, and I don’t dislike all of them. Fondness for a person, on the whole, does not divide up between pricks and princes that way. At least for me.

Nor does the world really divide up into pricks and princes at all, in my experience. Which is, I think, a trifle different than Dick Francis’s’es’ experience, at least from what I gathered out of a million pages of his stuff. Maybe it was all a fake, just to make the books more enjoyable, more comfortable, more readable. I have no idea. I can’t help but think, though, that the books are lovable, in the way they are, in part because he really did think in those terms. Which may have made him a bit of an asshole of a person, possibly (remember, I didn’t actually know him), but may also have made me like him, too, for the same things I found in his books.

And, you know, thank the Divine for that. Because if the world were divided into pricks and princes, and if nobody could like the pricks, well, then, where would I be?

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,
-Vardibidian.